I’ll never forget my time at Big Sandy
In January, my wife, Barbara, and I arrived in eastern Kentucky ready to embark on a new adventure while serving as interim president of Big Sandy Community and Technical College. I admit, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m a native of Kansas who spent most of my life and career in higher education in north Texas.
When I was approached about coming to Big Sandy, I wasn’t particularly looking, but I am sure glad that I ventured to the Bluegrass State. Prior to coming to eastern Kentucky, I didn’t know much about the state outside of its rich basketball tradition and being the home of bourbon.
Big Sandy needed an interim president, but what I realize now, some six months after arriving here, I needed Big Sandy. I needed to experience the love and compassion of “My Old Kentucky Home.” I needed to meet people like Rusty Justice, our board vice chairman, to take me off campus and on the winding roads and communities that make up the Big Sandy service area. I needed him to take me to a secluded mountaintop to discuss his vision of an eastern Kentucky full of opportunity.
I needed to meet Kathy Walker, an established entrepreneur who shifted her passion for coal miners into the East Kentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute. I needed to befriend local prosecutor Tony Skeans, who showed me that despite the challenges facing eastern Kentucky, it is full of those ready and willing to seize the opportunity.
I needed to meet Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton. His energy and vision for Prestonsburg and support for the college is immeasurable. Our legislators (Sen. Ray S. Jones II, Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, Sen. Brandon Smith, Rep. Chris Harris, Rep. Larry Brown, Rep. John Blanton, Rep. Scott Wells and Rep. Angela Hatton) have looked beyond party affiliation to focus on what is best for eastern Kentucky.
You are blessed to have a thriving community and technical college in the Big Sandy region. This institution is much more than a series of buildings sprinkled across three counties. It is a group of highly-skilled educators working collaboratively, in unison with community partners, to bring opportunity to all those who seek it. They are working in a regional fashion, blurring the county and municipal lines, not worried about who gets credit, only worried about the lives their work can change.
As my wife and I depart these hills for the flatlands of northern Texas, we will never forget our work here. I’ll never forget the people we met, the work we accomplished, and while I’ll be miles away, part of my heart will be here in the mountains supporting your work of transformation.
I have no doubt that Big Sandy will play a role in better and brighter days in eastern Kentucky. You’re on the cusp of something great, and please know that Barbara and I will be celebrating your successes with you along the way.
– Alan Scheibmeir is Interim President of Big Sandy Community and Technical College